29th November 2017: I am honoured to speak on behalf of the United Nations in Malawi this morning on the commemoration of the International Day of Peace and the launch of Malawi’s first ever National Peace Policy.
Firstly, I would like to congratulate His Excellency the President of the Republic of Malawi for his leadership in developing this Policy which represents an important milestone in sustaining peace and unity in Malawi.
Many countries in Africa have suffered civil war and conflict in the past fifty years. In contrast, Malawi has not seen large-scale armed conflict on a comparable scale. This is something to be proud of.
Absence of war, however, does not mean we can be sure of lasting and sustained peace. There are warning signs and new challenges.Political tensions, gender-based violence, lack of economic opportunities and inequality – amongst others – threaten the peaceful coexistence of all Malawians. As we look to the future, climate change and population growth risk intensifying a struggle for natural resources. Marginalization can drive ethnic and regional tensions. Too many other countries have learned this lesson the hard way through the loss of many innocent lives.
As the United Nations Secretary General said to the Security Council in January this year, “War is never inevitable. It is always a matter of choice: the choice to exclude, to discriminate, to marginalize, to resort to violence. By restoring trust between governments and their citizens…we can prevent and avoid conflict.”
Today’s Peace Policy, then, represents Malawi’s choice. A choice to invest in Peace rather than respond – too late – to violent conflict.
This Policy was developed in the past three years, through extensive consultations with the executive, legislative, political parties, faith groups, women’s groups, youth representatives and others. The United Nations family in Malawi – in particular UNDP and UNWOMEN – has been supporting the Civil Society Organisations Task Force and the Government in this process. The Policy provides a framework for these many stakeholders involved in conflict prevention to collaborate, to identify and respond to early warning signs of conflict, and to promote peace education. District Peace Committees are already being rolled out, with three pilots. The Women in Peacebuilding and the Youth Peace Fora recently established speak to the principle of inclusivity enshrined in the Policy.
So this is a Policy that has been developed through consultation and trust building. For it to be successful, it must also be taken forward through trust, providing space for dialogue for all Malawians: women, young people, people with disabilities and others. For lasting peace must be inclusive. As we commemorate the International Day of Peace today, our theme is “Together for peace: Unity in Diversity”. Indeed, diversity must be an ideal which unites all Malawians.
It will not be easy. For Peace is also not inevitable. It is the result of difficult decisions, hard work, tolerance and compromise – the bedrock of a democratic society.
Today, Malawi can celebrate the fact that it is one of only a few countries worldwide that has – proactively – developed and approved a National Peace Policy. In so doing, it will help reaffirm Malawi’s place in the world as an envoy of peace and it signals a commitment to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16, which promotes “peaceful and inclusive societies”.
Moving forward to implementation of the Policy, including translating it into legal Acts, and rolling out a sustainable National Peace Architecture will truly make Malawi a model for lasting peace and development for other countries to look to.
Once again, I would like to congratulate the Government, and you all, for achieving this milestone.
Thank you for your attention